Angus Wilson

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Sir Angus Wilson
Born Angus Frank Johnstone-Wilson[1]
(1913-08-11)11 August 1913[2]
Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex[2]
Died 31 May 1991(1991-05-31) (aged 77)[2]
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk[2]
Resting place West Suffolk Crematorium, Risby, St Edmundsbury Borough, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Alma mater Westminster School, Merton College, Oxford
Period 1949–1986
Notable works Anglo-Saxon Attitudes (1956), The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot (1958)
Notable awards James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1958), CBE (1968), Knight Bachelor (1980)
Partner Tony Garrett

Sir Angus Frank Johnstone-Wilson, CBE (11 August 1913 – 31 May 1991) was an English novelist and short story writer. He was awarded the 1958 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for The Middle Age of Mrs Eliot and later received a knighthood for his services to literature.[3]


Westminster School

Wilson was born in Bexhill, Sussex, England, to an English father and South African mother.[4] He was educated at Westminster School and Merton College, Oxford,[5] and in 1937 became a librarian in the British Museum's Department of Printed Books, working on the new General Catalogue.

During World War II, he worked in the Naval section at the code-breaking establishment, Bletchley Park, translating Italian Naval codes. A wearer of large, brightly coloured bow-ties, he was one of the "famous homosexuals" at Bletchley. The work situation was stressful and led to a nervous breakdown, for which he was treated by Rolf-Werner Kosterlitz. A Wren, Dorothy Robertson, was taught traffic analysis by him and another instructor. She recalled him as: [6]

a brilliant young homosexual .... He used to mince into the room wearing, in those days, outrageous clothes in all colours; he chain-smoked; his nails were bitten down to the quick and he had a rather hysterical laugh.

He returned to the Museum after the end of the War, and it was there that he met Tony Garrett (born 1929), who was to be his companion for the rest of his life.

Wilson's first publication was a collection of short stories, The Wrong Set (1949), followed quickly by the daring novel Hemlock and After, which was a great success, prompting invitations to lecture in Europe.[7]

He worked as a reviewer, and in 1955 he resigned from the British Museum to write full-time (although his financial situation did not justify doing so) and moved to Suffolk.

He was instrumental in getting Colin Wilson's first novel published in 1956[8] and from 1957 he gave lectures further afield, in Japan, Switzerland, Australia, and the USA. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1968, and received many literary honours in succeeding years. He was knighted in 1980, and was President of the Royal Society of Literature from 1982 to 1988. His remaining years were affected by ill health, and he died of a stroke at a nursing home in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on 31 May 1991, aged 77.[2]

His writing, which has a strongly satirical vein, expresses his concern with preserving a liberal humanistic outlook in the face of fashionable doctrinaire temptations. Several of his works were adapted for television. He was Professor of English Literature at the University of East Anglia from 1966 to 1978,[4] and jointly helped to establish their creative writing course at masters level in 1970,[9] which was then a groundbreaking initiative in the United Kingdom.



Short story collections[edit]

  • The Wrong Set (1949)
  • Such Darling Dodos (1950)
  • A Bit Off the Map (1957)
  • Death Dance (selected stories, 1969)


  • The Mulberry Bush (1955)


  • For Whom the Cloche Tolls: a Scrapbook of the Twenties (1953)
  • The Wild Garden or Speaking of Writing (1963)
  • The World of Charles Dickens (1970)
  • The Naughty Nineties (1976)
  • The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling: His Life and Works (1977)
  • Diversity and Depth in Fiction: Selected Critical Writings of Angus Wilson (1983)
  • Reflections In A Writer's Eye: travel pieces by Angus Wilson (1986)


  1. ^ Guide to the Angus Wilson Papers. Biographical Note. The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa, accessed 8 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Sir Angus Wilson". The Times. 3 June 1991. p. 16. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  3. ^ MacKay, Marina (8 January 2001). "Sir Angus Wilson". The Literary Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "WILSON, Sir Angus (Frank Johnstone)". Who Was Who. A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. 1920–2008; online edn, Oxford University Press, Dec 2012 ; online edn, Nov 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2013.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Levens, R.G.C., ed. (1964). Merton College Register 1900-1964. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. pp. 239–240. 
  6. ^ Smith, Michael (2000). The Emperor’s Codes: Bletchley Park and the breaking of Japan’s secret ciphers. London: Bantam Press. p. 210. ISBN 0593 046412. 
  7. ^ Drabble, Margaret (3 May 2008). "Back – due to popular demand: Margaret Drabble on Hemlock and After, Anglo-Saxon Attitudes and No Laughing Matter by Angus Wilson". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Desert Island Discs Archive: 1976-1980
  9. ^ Liukkonen, Petri. "Angus Wilson". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 28 September 2006. 


  • Conradi, Peter, Isobel Armstrong and Bryan Loughrey (editors), "Angus Wilson", Northcote House, 1997, ISBN 0-7463-0803-5.
  • Drabble, Margaret. Angus Wilson: A Biography.London: Secker & Warburg, 1995. ISBN 0-436-20038-4 (Hardcover) ISBN 0-436-20271-9 (Paperback)
  • Halio, Jay, "Angus Wilson", Oliver & Boyd, London, 1964.
  • Stape, John Henry and Anne N. Thomas. Angus Wilson: A Bibliography 1947–1987. London & New York: Mansell Publishing, 1988. ISBN 0-7201-1872-7.

External links[edit]